When Blair finally goes, there will be blood on the carpet
Sir: It is one of the chief glories of the British constitution that politicians, and Prime Ministers in particular, are thrown out of office with brutal speed when the moment arrives.
Everyone knows what is going to happen before long: Mr Blair will go to Buckingham Palace and resign; the Queen will invite Gordon Brown to form an administration; he will do so and then be elected leader of the Labour Party, while Tony Blair hustles out of Downing Street, scarcely having time to pack. It always happens, and is a just reward for the way our leaders behave when in power.
Therefore, let us hear no more cant about "an orderly transition". There cannot be such a thing, scarcely even the appearance of it. Except possibly in 1976, when Harold Wilson took everyone by surprise, there hasn't been an orderly transition since 1955 - and the succession of Anthony Eden to Winston Churchill was smooth only in form.
Mr Blair has tried to prop himself up in office by his reshuffle: it would hardly be decent to install yet another Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary tomorrow, or next week. But when the time comes there will be blood on the carpet. Everybody knows this. So let us have no more wishful thinking.
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY,UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX COLCHESTER
Sir: I'm quite upset to read in your edition of 11 May the low approval ratings for Tony Blair (26 per cent) and George Bush (31 per cent), for they show, yet again, that Britons remain smarter than Americans. Oh, well, at least we're all learning.
SUSAN HARLAN BORGHESE
AVON, CONNECTICUT, USA
Sir: The unpopularity of Labour leaders so neatly explained: it's all down to the Iraq war! It has obviously nothing to do with criminals on the loose, sleazy private behaviour, mismanagement of the NHS, farcical immigration policies or a phoney prosperity built on the back of a property bubble.
Kelly: how religion and politics collide
Sir: Tim King (letter, 11 May) is quite correct in his explanation of current Catholic teaching and its view of homosexuality as a "disorder"; and, however misguided non-Catholics may consider this opinion , we must accept that each human being has a right to his or her own beliefs. Nevertheless, government ministers are appointed to represent the entire British population and it is the duty of the Prime Minister to ensure that ministers' personal beliefs do not compromise their ability to carry out their duties in a just and unbiased manner.
If indeed Ruth Kelly does subscribe to the view that homosexuality is a sin and therefore to be considered as a less worthy state than heterosexuality, then such opinions should be as repugnant to us as those of any other group which condemns a section of society without justification. A government minister who held such views about foreigners or disabled people would rightly be branded a racist or a bigot and removed from office.
However, when such repellent views are shrouded behind the quasi-respectable face of religious doctrine, we are expected to turn a blind eye and accept this in a government minister.
Sir: I cannot believe Ruth Kelly was appointed Secretary of State for Communities, a role in which she is supposed to ensure equality for all, when she clearly has problems accepting homosexuals. Her absence from many votes on equality and her refusal to deny that homosexuality is a sin make her unsuitable for the job. She should be replaced with someone with views suited to the position.
Sir: I hold no brief for Ruth Kelly, and still less for Opus Dei. But I am appalled at the way in which she is being hounded by the media to divulge her private views. Ms Kelly knows as well as the rest of us that she lives in a pluralist democracy, and that it would be unthinkable for her to seek to impose her views on the rest of the population by sponsoring legislation which would undermine that pluralism.
In a democracy, it is the right of the individual to keep personal views private, if he or she so wishes. The alternative is to behave like the Franco regime in Spain, which pilloried and even executed people for views they were believed to hold, rather than for anything they said or did.
THE REV EAMONN RODGERS
Sir: After reading your story on Ruth Kelly's appointment as Secretary of State for Communities ("Is homosexuality a sin? Minister of Equality refuses to rule it out", 10 May), one might be forgiven for thinking that the Government is ambivalent with regard to ensuring equal rights to lesbians and gay men. It's time to clear up this issue once and for all.
Anyone who argues that this appointment means the Government does not take gay rights seriously is sprinkling political poison with a blatant disregard for the facts. I'm proud of the wealth of legislation this government has introduced on equality, from gays in the military to civil partnerships. This proves that this government doesn't talk about equality, it delivers it; and I'm convinced Ruth Kelly will deliver the Government's agenda.
MICHAEL CASHMAN MEP
(LABOUR) PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT INTERGROUP ON GAY AND LESBIAN RIGHTS WEST BROMWICH, WEST MIDLANDS
Sir: How long will it be, I wonder, before The Independent, that great champion of minority rights, will feel the need to come to the aid of the minority in whose oppression it has become such an active participant? I speak of those mainstream Christians who regard the writings of the Apostles of Jesus Christ in Holy Scripture as authoritative for the Church in all ages and consequently regard homosexual conduct as sinful.
You seem to regard it as requiring no proof that Ruth Kelly, who is reported to be a member of Opus Dei and therefore likely to regard gay sex as sinful, is for that reason incapable of acting with fairness and integrity towards gay and lesbian people. I do not know the details of Ruth Kelly's beliefs but I would be most surprised if she were not aware of the Christian principle summed up by the words "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." That principle requires Christians in office to distinguish the standards of behaviour required in the Church and those which may be legitimately required by the state of its citizens.
I can see no evidence that Ms Kelly is as a parliamentarian lobbying for homosexual conduct, or for that matter adultery and mendacity which, I am sure, she also disapproves of, being brought within the criminal code. So what are your grounds for your sensational front page. ?
BEVERLEY, EAST YORKSHIRE
Sir: I find the claims that Ruth Kelly is a religious extremist with dangerous views hilarious. What next - is she going to hide away in a cave in Lancashire and answer her parliamentary questions via an audio tape sent to the Beeb?
After the empire, a fit of the grumps
Sir: Will Self's Psychogeography of 7 May certainly provided food for thought. As I huddled in my smoke-filled, leaky bothy, in the non-existent country of Eire (Eire? Who was the last person Mr Self read on Ireland? H V Morton?), I took time off from brooding on ancestral wrongs to dwell on his comment that the Russians were like the Irish with an empire.
There are of course similarities between the Irish and the Russians. The taste for certain colourless spirits, capable of stripping the lining from your stomach. The rich cultural heritage; the strong sense of drama. The sensitivity to racial slights. The sentimental attachment to the idea of the motherland. But most of those Russians I have met have been morose, slightly resentful individuals, without much of a sense of humour. Grumpy, in a word. And grumpiness cannot, in fairness, be put forward as a major national trait of the Irish.
Then inspiration struck. I do not wish to make grand generalisations about racial characteristics, especially as most of the English economic migrants who make their way to us across the sea in search of a better life, or even just a job in a call centre, are perfectly charming people. But look at Mr Self, himself. Look at Mr Houellebecq, whom I have never met but whose reputation is hardly that of a Pollyanna. Look at how much less friendly and how much more whiny Americans have become since their cultural empire has started to disintegrate. Like the Russians, all are products of lost empires, of a vanished world where "their people" were in control.
It seems that it is the empire part - or rather the loss of it - that creates the grumpiness. Most studies of post-colonialism concentrate on the societies that have been colonised, and much less attention has been paid to the effects of the loss of empire on the society which is no longer top dog. I think I may have identified a cultural phenomenon. Post-colonial grumpiness; would someone please write a column on that?
Lib Dems to blame for party's troubles
Sir: Having spent a bruising few weeks on the campaign trail, I must say Richard Denton-White's letter cheered me up no end ("Lib Dems fail to woo Labour's lost voters", 9 May). The idea that disillusioned Labour supporters withheld support for the Lib Dems because of the Orange Book Group and its economic liberalism was so funny I'm still laughing. I can assure Richard and the readers of The Independent that not one person in my ward of Mill Hill, London Borough of Barnet, mentioned the Orange Book. I wonder if any of them had even heard of it.
The failure of the Liberal Democrats at the recent local elections (and despite some significant, but isolated, successes, it was a failure) can be attributed to the following.
Many Labour voters in previous elections were not Labour supporters at all. They were anti-Tory voters attracted to New Labour and Tony Blair and motivated by the desire to support the winning team. These people are now anti-Labour voters attracted to Cameron's bland brand of so-called compassionate Conservatism and, again, motivated by the desire to support the winning team.
Finally, the Liberal Democrats' failure was their own fault. The party cannot resist the temptation to go on an excursion up its own backside (of which Richard Denton-White's letter is a fine example). When is the party going to wake up to the fact that the public don't find the Liberal Democrats half as fascinating as we do ourselves? In addition, and this has to be said, in January we replaced a flawed but likeable leader with a senatorial but unpopular one.
CLLR WAYNE CASEY
DEPUTY LEADER, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GROUP, BOROUGH OF BARNET, LONDON NW7
Failed by the mental health system
Sir: SANE has fought for years for people with personality disorders to receive health and social care rather than be relegated to the prison system only after they have committed a crime ("How system failed family of violent patient", 11 May).
People in this group - from whom some professionals have tended to shy away as using all too scarce health resources - can present the greatest threat to themselves and occasionally others. For them, a limited and short-term interpretation of civil rights can lead to neglect and deprivation, let alone suffering for their families whose pleas for help fall on deaf ears.
Excluding those with personality disorders from treatment falls short of a humane and civilised mental health system and makes victims of everyone.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, SANE LONDON E1
Wiped off the map
Sir: Henry Tobias (letter, 11 May) disparages Iran's threat to "wipe Israel off the map": perhaps Mr Tobias can explain precisely how this abhorrent threat differs from Israel's efficient and comprehensive wiping of Palestine off the map?
Sir: The pessimism of Johann Hari's article "This peace won't stop genocide in Darfur" (11 May) will be well founded if the West continues to fail to give that region the priority it deserves. The Government has been spending £125m a month on military operations in Iraq - the same as the total it has provided to Darfur since September 2003. Containment, peace-building and protection of refugees can only be achieved with more than the threadbare resources that the West has provided so far.
ANDREW GEORGE MP
(ST IVES, LIB DEM) HOUSE OF COMMONS
Sir: What kind of humane Government is this? A group of terrified Afghans flee from the murderous Taliban regime in a daring escape and the Labour government spares no opportunity to try and send them back. Tony Blair calls letting them stay an abuse of common sense but the Government has only just seen sense in the Attorney General finally publicly trying to get the illegal detention facility at Guantanamo Bay closed down. That failure of justice does more to encourage terrorism than people fleeing a murderous enemy.
SENIOR TUTOR AND LECTURER IN LAW, UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL
Heroes of the air
Sir: The great aviator Amy Johnson was not actually the first Air Transport Auxiliary pilot to be killed in service, nor even the first female pilot ("Killed in the line of duty", 10 May). In total 173 aircrew, including 15 women, lost their lives with ATA, ferrying a huge variety of RAF and RN aircraft from factories to maintenance units and front-line squadrons. Often the first time they set eyes on a particular type of aircraft was when they came to ferry one for the first time. ATA's astonishing achievements deserve to be much better known.
CHAIRMAN, MAIDENHEAD HERITAGE CENTRE, BERKSHIRE
Sir: How welcome is Marian Shaw's letter (10 May) commenting on rain forecasts being seen as bad. As a sufferer from "hay fever" I yearn for cool, damp summers. Alas, "hay fever" isn't an illness, but a bizarre condition, like piles and ingrowing toenails, produced for the entertainment of the non-afflicted.